In 2014, we created a music contest in hopes of discovering unknown artists we otherwise might not get to hear. Each year since, thousands of unsigned musicians from across the country have sent us videos of themselves performing their original songs in true NPR Music fashion: behind a desk. Our winner gets to play a Tiny Desk concert and then goes on a victory tour of sorts with NPR Music. We call it the Tiny Desk Contest.
In this playlist, we're highlighting our five Contest winners who hail from across the country — Alaska to Louisiana — and whose captivating music can't be stifled by genre. From Gaelynn Lea's reinventive style of playing the violin to Tank and The Bangas' contagious, celebratory fervor, these artists' performances stopped us in our tracks. Last year's winner, Quinn Christopherson, stood out to us with his deep, emotional lyrics; listening to his songs feels a bit like someone reaching in and squeezing your heart like a sponge. The talent and passion among these five artists is clear. Their voices are distinct. Most notably, their music is singular enough to stand out among the thousands of other artists who entered the Contest with high hopes of playing at the Desk.
We discover lots of great artists we love each year through the Contest — and while we can't bring them all to Bob Boilen's desk, we do sometimes invite artists who entered but didn't win to play at the Tiny Desk. You can watch these artists' entries and Tiny Desk performances on YouTube.
This year, Quinn Christopherson is a Contest judge helping us pick the 2020 winner — joined by Tiny Desk alums Brittany Howard and Gina Chavez, among others. You can learn more about the 2020 Tiny Desk Contest and enter by March 30 at our Tiny Desk Contest website.
Maybe this playlist will help you discover a new artist to love. Or maybe it will inspire you to grab a desk and a camera, strike up the band and enter the Tiny Desk Contest yourself.
You won’t find a paywall here. Come as often as you like — we’re not counting. You’ve found a like-minded tribe that cherishes what a free press stands for. If you can spend another couple of minutes making a pledge of as little as $5, you’ll feel like a superhero defending democracy for less than the cost of a month of Netflix.